By Terri Spears, MS, LCAS

Addiction impacts everyone, but no one more than the family and loved ones of someone who has addiction. FEAR is the strongest emotion present in the lives of family and loved ones, and it drives nearly everything the family does: fear that they are going to lose their child; fear that something is going to happen and they can’t rescue their child; fear that they are making the wrong choices in trying to help their child; fear that they are enabling the addiction; fear that they did something wrong as a parent; fear that their child will die.

Recovery is a long and arduous journey AND a wonderful and freeing journey. Recovery is all of these things for the family too. When an adult child comes to college or returns to college after finding recovery, it is often with mixed emotions that a parent celebrates the furthering of their education. Same as while the addiction is active, FEAR is the most prevalent emotion.

With Collegiate Recovery Communities (CRCs) becoming more widespread across the nation, parents may rest easier knowing their student will not have to compromise their education for their recovery or their recovery for their education. CRCs provide peer and academic support, recovery coaching, advocacy, and fun, sober activities that their student can enjoy. Like any college student, students in recovery want to meet people and have fun with friends. Sober tailgates, white water rafting (where no one falls out and drowns because everyone is sober!), and recovery celebrations are some of the many ways CRCs develop community, social support, celebrate recovery and have FUN!  Most CRCs have a dedicated space on campus where students in recovery gather to study, garner support, socialize or just hang out. A dedicated space conveys to the student in recovery that they matter, that their recovery, safety and comfort are priorities to the university.

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s CRC is called Spartan Recovery Program (SRP): It’s E.P.I.C.: Empowerment, Purpose, Inclusion and Community. The E.P.I.C. lounge is the students’ home away from home, as most members live off campus. Complete with coffee and granola bars, students can reduce stress by spending time in the massage chair, enjoy video gaming on the big screen with friends, or pull the oversized bean bag chairs together to catch a nap between classes. The E.P.I.C. lounge is a safe space in which the students can be authentically themselves, including their past, present and future–recovery and all.

Many students take advantage of gender specific small groups, where they come together to share joys, sorrows, stress and concern with peers in recovery who also juggle recovery, school, work, and life. Recovery Coaching with the SRP Coordinator often occurs when a member is going home for a holiday break or special event where their family members drink or siblings are still using. Students are coached to develop a plan and using recovery based tools when triggers arise.

More and more parents are seeking universities with CRCs when their adult child finds recovery and wants to return to or enroll in school. Parents at the UNCG orientation will sometimes speak openly about their incoming student having had issues with alcohol or drugs and want them to join SRP. SRP staff welcomes all inquiries, and enjoys bragging on the SRP students, especially their academic success, including an overall G.P.A. for fall 2016 of 3.68 and Spring 2017 of 3.52, with 10 students earning a 4.0!

No one in recovery need navigate the college experience alone or disengaged. CRCs make parents a little less fearful and a whole lot proud of their child and the capacity restored in recovery. Recovery: It’s E.P.I.C!

Terri Spears, MS, LCAS, is the Coordinator of UNCG’s Spartan Recovery Program. To learn more about the Spartan Recovery Program, please visit https://shs.uncg.edu/srp.

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